As I sit in my fully packed car on my way back to the lovely Williamsburg, Virginia, I have the chance to really reflect and process what happened this summer. As we like to say in CLIP, “If you don’t process it, it never happened.” Never before have I found a mantra that truly motivates me to sit down and reflect in the purest form.
In turn, as my contribution to the flourishing CLIP 2015 blog, I’m going to attempt to write out some reflections from this past summer. It may not make perfect sense, but to me, that’s what reflection is all about: making sense out of the nonsense that runs through my mind.
I essentially applied for CLIP because I was feeling a little bit lost – I haven’t declared a major yet, but have already taken 30 credits worth of classes at William & Mary, and I was still unsure of what path to go down (both literally and figuratively). I found CLIP and I applied thinking, “This program seems pretty Jewish… but Judaism has always been something that I can turn to… so I might as well give it a shot.”
Ironically, I finished this summer feeling the exact same as I had going into the summer; Judaism is my home; it’s somewhere, someone, or something that I can always turn to. One of the main goals of CLIP was to “affirm, nuance, or change” our status quo, both personal and professional. In this way, I can proudly say that all of my experiences with CLIP— from the first day of orientation featuring many new faces and a jokingly-serious “Great Bagel Debate,” through the day-to-day responsibilities at the URJ, and all the way through the last goodbyes at the closing ceremony— have given me a more clear understanding of how Judaism fits into my life, and thus affirmed my belief that Judaism is my home.
My day-to-day interactions with Jay, Gabriel, and the other members of the cohort were such a gift to me. As the type of person who is motivated by making connections with others, I could not have asked for a more fantastic setting to explore both my Jewish beliefs and practices, as well as my non-Jewish beliefs and practices. I went home after each Wednesday seminar eager to start new conversations about values, getting to know yourself, and the art of processing/reflecting. On the other end of the spectrum, I was also eager to start new conversations about Jewish practices that were different than my own, the structure of the Jewish professional world, and tons of new connections established through a never-ending game of Jewish Geography. On the note of “affirm, nuance, or change,” I would classify these new conversations and knowledge as nuancing my beliefs, by understanding them more deeply and modifying the lens through which I look at the Jewish world.
I also went through a deep-rooted, out-of-body, existential crisis (I do mean “crisis” in the best way possible). Before CLIP began, if I were to look at the imaginary web of my existence, I would place Judaism as one of the outer pieces of my being that is present de facto, mainly because I grew up Jewish, I can read Hebrew, I went to Jewish camp, etc. Now, I look at Judaism as an active choice that I make over and over again, each day that I wake up. Because of that choice, in the imaginary web of my existence, Judaism is closer to the center – it now has the power to impact so much more. The “crisis” portion of that was trying to understand what it means for Judaism to be such an important part of myself, and how others perceive me because of it. My attempt to understand my identity was a daily endeavor for me. Since I do go to school in southeast Virginia (where “thriving” is not a word that I would use to describe the Jewish population), I feel that it is important to figure out how to present myself to those who have never met a Jewish person before. Relating to “affirm, nuance, or change,” I would definitely catalogue this personal journey as a change. Before this summer, I had never attempted to look at my identity from the outside.
So, I would just like to express my gratitude to Jay, Gabriel, as well as the other 42 members of our cohort, for each contributing to an experience that simultaneously affirmed, nuanced, and changed my beliefs. Although, I know that this exciting adventure is not over, and this is only the beginning of my journey through processing my time in CLIP.